As expected by many coaches, the move of three Montgomery County teams to the Baltimore-heavy Maryland 4A North Region has given Montgomery two teams in the 4A semifinals: top-ranked Damascus and sixth-ranked Sherwood.
Although for Sherwood the move to the 4A North was beneficial -- under the previous alignment, no county could send more than one team to the state semifinals -- it remains to be seen how two lopsided playoff victories might affect the Sandy Spring school coming into this weekend's state semifinals.
Sherwood outscored its first two playoff opponents by a combined score of 87-0; since losing to Damascus, 25-7 on Oct. 21, the Warriors have won their five games by a combined 224-46.
"It seems like the team that has light games just isn't ready for that next game," Damascus Coach Dan Makosy said, noting state tournament results from the past two seasons when teams that had tougher playoff games wound up winning the state title.
"I don't think it helps them, believe me. They played some creampuffs before we played them, and they were in shock when we played them in the first quarter. They might have the same thing again, overflowing with confidence. I don't think it's a benefit playing easy games heading into a hard one."
Damascus will host Old Mill (10-2) on Friday, and Sherwood will play Saturday at fifth-ranked Douglass (12-0.) Many expect the Sherwood-Douglass game to be the weekend's premier matchup, with Sherwood standout quarterback Deontay Twyman leading his team against a defense regarded as one of the most physical in the Washington area.
"Our guys were forced to play four quarters of football with the game on the line whereas Sherwood had time to rest their starters," said Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney, whose team won its first two playoff games by an average of 14 points. "Thankfully, none of our guys got hurt, but they're a little beat up. By the same token, it's pretty tough to simulate playoff-caliber football when your opponent is not giving you much of a match."
Like Cream, Oakton Rises to the Top
At the start of the season, four teams in Virginia's AAA Concorde District looked to have a shot at the Northern Region Division 6 crown. As the year progressed, favorites emerged. Robinson had the best pedigree, making the state final in 2004, and most impressive win, beating Maryland private school Good Counsel; Westfield had the hottest streak, winning its first nine games; Centreville had the highest-scoring offense in the Metro area and ended Robinson's 37-game regular season win streak. Few would have expected the fourth team, Oakton, to come out on top.
But after Saturday's 42-24 pounding of Westfield in the region final, no one can say that No. 7 Oakton doesn't deserve its title. The Cougars (10-2) played seven games against Division 5 or 6 playoff teams, and that's not counting a matchup against Centreville (8-2), perhaps the area's best team not to make the postseason.
Coach Joe Thompson said the seeds of this region championship date from 2003, his first year as coach, when the Cougars missed the playoffs by one game. Thompson had eight sophomores contributing to that team, and all eight are now seniors, including running back Keith Payne, who had a career-best 244 yards and five touchdowns Saturday.
"Sophomore year got a lot of people thinking that we can't just do this without hard work," senior fullback Taylor Naleppa said. "My class just hit the weight room really hard because we didn't want to be in that position again."
While Oakton has not quite laid claim to the title of strongest program in the region -- that distinction probably still belongs to Robinson, which made five straight region finals until this year -- the Cougars now have a chance to win a state championship, something they have never done. By doing so, they would again match their three district rivals, all of which have taken the title since 2000.
A Short Celebration for Hylton
Hylton Coach Lou Sorrentino wanted to relish the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 6 championship win over Osbourn -- the program's eighth straight title -- on Saturday afternoon before he started thinking about state semifinal opponent Landstown.
Who could blame him? The No. 2 Eagles (12-0) are the defending state champions, are riding a 26-game winning streak and, in last year's title game, beat Robinson, 47-20, a team that had blanked Hylton, 41-0, a week prior.
Landstown will visit Hylton at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Landstown, coached by Chantilly graduate Chris Beatty, formerly the coach at North Stafford, features perhaps the most prolific passing attack in AAA state history, keyed by senior receiver Percy Harvin, one of 16 finalists for the Parade All-America High School Player of the Year award.
Harvin, senior receiver Damon McDaniel (another national recruit) and senior quarterback Donny Kirby all are ranked among the top career or season statistical leaders in the state record book.
"They're really good at what they do," Sorrentino said.